Why a New Jersey Town Was Wrong to Prevent Its Jewish Residents from Constructing an Eruv

In the northern New Jersey town of Mahwah, an expanding Orthodox community has attempted to set up an eruv, a sort of legal fiction that allows for carrying out of doors on Shabbat. The town’s government recently ruled that the eruv—which consists of small pieces of white PVC piping attached to utility poles—violated local zoning laws. On Wednesday some parts of the eruv were vandalized. The editors of NorthJersey.com take issue with Mahwah’s decision:

Signs are prohibited on trees, rocks, and utility poles in Mahwah. [But an] eruv is a reasonable religious accommodation; it is not a sign. . . . Orange & Rockland Utilities, which owns the poles, has given permission. . . to install the pipe.

We understand some may not like the aesthetics of the piping, just as some people don’t like solar panels attached to utility poles. But, first, these are utility poles, not majestic oaks. And second, the ability to worship without government interference is a constitutional right. . . .

Mahwah’s Mayor Bill Laforet said [that the eruv decision] “sends a very strong message to those who choose to violate our sign ordinances.” It sends a very different kind of strong message about Mahwah. . . . An online petition against the eruv, titled “Protect the Quality of Our Community in Mahwah,” lists over 1,200 supporters. Some of the comments are ugly: “This group of people are known for entering a community and taking it over for their own advantage. They are known for taking a lovely community and turning it into a run-down, dirty, unwanted place to live.”

That is not a comment against signs, but one against Orthodox Jews. Some white PVC piping is not an overt expression of any faith. It is not akin to placing crosses on public structures; it’s plastic piping on utility poles with permission from the owners of the utility poles. . . . The eruv should stay.

Read more at NorthJersey.com

More about: Freedom of Religion, Halakhah, Orthodoxy, Religion & Holidays, Shabbat

Would an American-Backed UN Resolution Calling for a Temporary Ceasefire Undermine Israel?

Yesterday morning, the U.S. vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution, sponsored by Algeria, that demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. As an alternative, the American delegation has been circulating a draft resolution calling for a “temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable, based on the formula of all hostages being released.” Benny Avni comments:

While the Israel Defense Force may be able to maintain its Gaza operations under that provision, the U.S.-proposed resolution also warns the military against proceeding with its plan to enter the southern Gaza town of Rafah. Israel says that a critical number of Hamas fighters are hiding inside tunnels and in civilian buildings at Rafah, surrounded by a number of the remaining 134 hostages.

In one paragraph, the text of the new American resolution says that the council “determines that under current circumstances a major ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighboring countries, which would have serious implications for regional peace and security, and therefore underscores that such a major ground offensive should not proceed under current circumstances.”

In addition to the paragraph about Rafah, the American-proposed resolution is admonishing Israel not to create a buffer zone inside Gaza. Such a narrow zone, as wide as two miles, is seen by many Israelis as a future protection against infiltration from Gaza.

Perhaps, as Robert Satloff argues, the resolution isn’t intended to forestall an IDF operation in Rafah, but only—consistent with prior statements from the Biden administration—to demand that Israel come up with a plan to move civilians out of harms way before advancing on the city.

If that is so, the resolution wouldn’t change much if passed. But why is the U.S. proposing an alternative ceasefire resolution at all? Strategically, Washington has nothing to gain from stopping Israel, its ally, from achieving a complete victory over Hamas. Why not instead pass a resolution condemning Hamas (something the Security Council has not done), calling for the release of hostages, and demanding that Qatar and Iran stop providing the group with arms and funds? Better yet, demand that these two countries—along with Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon—arrest Hamas leaders on their territory.

Surely Russia would veto such a resolution, but still, why not go on the offensive, rather than trying to come up with another UN resolution aimed at restraining Israel?

Read more at New York Sun

More about: Gaza War 2023, U.S.-Israel relationship, United Nations